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During the past 3+ years, food-processing plant maintenance worker Richard Crampton has designed a collection of mats and pads that use heavy, resilient, closed-cell foam to cushion and support the knee when placed on hard surfaces.

Crampton believes that maintenance employees are more willing to kneel on a hard surface, rather than stoop over, if a sturdy yet soft work pad is available. From his experience, Crampton has noted that a number of common tasks, such as changing a tire, occur on equipment located below waist level. With the pads and mats, employees can keep their backs straight and are less likely to place themselves in a position where they must continually bend their backs.

One product, "Soft Knees," is a kit that includes a 5-inch-square piece of foam material that can be rolled up and placed in the opening at the bottom of a double knee that is sewn or glued onto the exterior of coveralls or work pants. Since the pad is waterproof, it also acts as a moisture barrier and keeps the employee's leg dry.

Also, Crampton recently released a disposable soft knee pad for use on the exterior of hazardous-duty coveralls. Workers can strap the pad to the outermost layer of clothing, and when finished kneeling in a potentially hazardous liquid, dispose of the pad in an approved manner. Concrete finishers who kneel on wet concrete could be a prime market.